Skill & Knowledge The Engines of Growth
Mahindra & Mahindra – Automotive Division has been time and again rated as one of the best manufacturing companies to work for. According to Mr. Vijay Kalra, this is a result of the engaging ecosystem that the Company creates for its employees. He says that a business cannot grow without the right people, for a manufacturing set up, success lies with a skilled workforce and world class automation.
In conversation with the Machine Maker, Mr. Vijay Kalra elaborately talks about the workforce and policies surrounding them. The zeal in his eyes and the zest in his words reflect his deep dedication for his work, great respect for his people, and the admiration for his company.
He has decades of experience with leading firms such as Ashok Leyland, MLS Claas India, DCM Toyota, Toyota Motor Corp., Daewoo motors Ltd. and General Motors and now works at Mahindra & Mahindra – Automotive Division. He points out that there are multiple factors which need to come together to create a company like Mahindra, which they are very proud of. Mr. Kalra say that the most important factor is their people. He points out that even if they get the best facilities, technology, professionals from great institutes it is not necessary that the company will be great. The ability to get the best out of all employees (White & Blue collar) by imbibing Mahindra’s core values like Dignity of individual, Professionalism & good corporate citizenship on continuous basis differentiates Mahindra & Mahindra from other manufacturing industry and is the reason why it is featured in many reviews and ratings many times as one of the best manufacturing companies in India to work for.
At Mahindra & Mahindra’s Automotive Division there are 20,000 blue-collar and 5,000 white-collar strong workforce. The firm has over 2 Lakh people working directly with Mahindra & Mahindra and these numbers will grow. The ‘Make in India’ mission will fuel these numbers not only in Mahindra but in all the Manufacturing Industries. Mr. Kalra is proud that at Mahindra, everyone is committed to imparting the required skills and providing the required capability building tools to all workforce as well as ensuring that at the work force at the Vendors / Supplier end is also at par with best practices, required skill set and overall empowered individuals.
With is vast experience Vijay Kalra feels the only gap between us and our global counterparts in general is our outlook. While in India there is a huge gap in compensation and thought between a white-collar and blue-collar, outside there is hardly any difference in social standing. Abroad, a blue-collar employee can earn as much as the highest paid white collar employee, it all depends on his job description, value to the organization. Two industrialized worlds exists, one world values skills and the other one does not, in India many organizations fall in the latter category. We do not pay for value, we pay for knowledge, we do not pay for delivery, we pay for potential. Delivery does not come from knowledge alone, it comes from knowledge and experience which results in skill. There is no difference in the skills of an Indian employee vis-à-vis our foreign counterparts, but there still exists a difference in the way the skills are respected and valued. Some blue-collar workmen earn and command a lot of respect in their companies and countries, and make a lot of money because their skills are valued, we need to extend a similar kind of respect and value for skilled workforce, if and when we do there will be change in our country. While engineers plan the last point connectivity and tying the knot is done by the associates. Though the dreams are sown by engineers they are turned into reality by the associates.
Mr. Vijay says that the outlook towards Contract manpower has been changing across industries for the better. Employers are becoming more responsible and the line between permanent and contract employees is becoming blur. Gap in salaries are being bridged, employee benefits are being extended to all members and I can only pray that in time we become a progressive society that sees no differences. Ultimately, there is one world, one economy and every member associated with you, is your stakeholder.
Mahindra consider contract manpower as flexible manpower and not a substitute for a regular job or as a low cost labour option. As a matter of principle, the firm do not engage a contract manpower for a core continuous activity. All contract manpower is engaged in allied or support functions that are regulated by business demands. However, when one enters the gates, each one is equipped with proper health and safety training along with Best Practices Training before they start any job. Mahindra’s employee welfare and safety measures are beyond the mere requirements of Law.
All the eight plants have female associates on the shop-floor doing exactly same jobs as anybody else, second to none. They are on assembly lines, welding, driving forklifts, and on security jobs. A proud moment was when two of the female forklift drivers, Ms. Sulbha Lad & Ms. Shubhangi Gaikwad were recognized by the President of India, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee. Another inspiring story is that of one of the shop-floor female who comes from Igatpuri and stood first in the Maharashtra State Fire Safety Competition competing with male counterparts. Another shop-floor female stood second at the CII Welding Competition. In time, he has seen all the numbers grow, there isn’t a single domain where women cannot carve a name for themselves.
Mr. Vijay says that humans have evolved from an ape like civilization and all we see around probably never existed as far back as 20 years ago. What we have around us today is a product of human intelligence and it will so continue. Automation provides a way to expand intelligence along various dimensions, in the same way that cranes allow us to carry a hundred tons or airplanes transport us at hundreds of miles per hour or telescopes allow us to see things trillions of miles away.
Although, advancement of machine learning and artificial intelligence is a big worry for a lay industry man such as me, I am certain that ‘artificial intelligence’ will always need ‘human interface’. For example, in a Body Shop earlier welding was done manually till we got it on the line and automated, but we still need the quality checked something that the roller hemming cannot do on its own. When companies automate manufacturing lines, yes it reduces at least 20% of manpower, but then again, these are companies that are expanding and therefore still need that 20% manpower for their newer operations. Machines cannot replace Man 100%, while we do have Google’s Driverless Car, we also need a man hundred to build, create, and manufacture those cars. Jobs or rather Trades may become irrelevant but man is capable like in the civilization that came before us, to ‘evolve’.
Besides, automation comes at a premium, and as a Country we have a lot of time to catch up. When the cost of labor and the cost of machine is balanced the cost of affording the product would be beyond my imagination as of now!
Artificial Intelligence will bring down jobs and companies will need to adopt advance technology not because of economic need but due to the demand for quality. I believe that automation and machine learning if suitably designed will not only support each other but will accelerate the growth of any organization, any economy and eventually lead growth on a path for actualization of human values.
The Machine Maker is proud to bring the story of this leader who quotes, "Rise is a way of life for us at Mahindra and it revolves around three pillars - Accepting No Limits, Driving Positive Change and Alternative Thinking". We also congratulate the Mahindra Team for instituting the RISE Award that has become a part of their ecosystem and believes that Artificial Intelligence will always need the human interface.